The home is where you relax, make meals, and sleep. It’s your go-to zone when the outside world gets a bit too much and you want a sanctuary at home. To help it be a place that’s a positive one for your mind, an important consideration is the amount of direct light that comes in through windows and skylights. That’s something to consider given the relationship between natural light and mental health.
This post is sponsored by Three Countries, specializing in high performance windows, doors, and conservatories for more than a decade.
There’s Vitamin D too
The natural sunlight streams through windows, including in my home office and big windows in the living room where we watch TV. That’s great for getting me – and you, in your house! – enough Vitamin D.
While ultraviolet (UV) in sunlight gets a lot of flack, and I get it given I’ve had skin cancer, UV light actually has benefits, namely that it absorbs through the skin, generating Vitamin D.
In other words, the sun is a natural source of Vitamin D for the body. And it’s an important vitamin, no doubt about it.
For example, you need Vitamin D to effectively absorb calcium. Unfortunately if you don’t get adequate sun time, you could be at risk for conditions that come from deficiciencies in calcium, including osteoporosis.
That’s all the more reason to welcome sunlight into your home with open curtains and more windows, if you don’t have many in your residence. Look for window special offers to save money on renovations.
Artificial light vs natural light
Specifically, this post is focusing on natural light, which comes from the sun. As the name suggests, it’s found in nature, beautiful nature!
It is dynamic, meaning it changes with the time of day. Another characteristic is full spectrum; this light has all of the colors of the rainbow.
That’s as opposed to artificial light at home that’s from LEDs or other bulbs. It might even be light from an electronic device. Most artificial lights don’t have all of the spectrum colors.
Obviously there are benefits of both types of lighting in the home. For example, you can control artificial light, turning it off or on as you desire, whereas the sun will go down in the evening, something you cannot stop.
As for natural light, a major advantage is that broad spectrum of color mentioned earlier. Not only for aesthetically pleasing reasons either!
Sunlight actually passes through a lot of layers during the day, which scatters the light and encourages more red and orange hues. Meanwhile, most artificial light has blues and yellows, with little red, excluding incandescents.
Would it surprise you to learn that those colors can affect your mental health?
Natural light and mental health: Colors matter
While you’ve likely noticed that you feel good in sunlight, you might not have thought about why exactly that is. Yup, it’s the rainbow thing again!
When talking color, it’s these specific characteristics of natural light that are the focus:
- Brightness – How bright the color is
- Saturation – Color intensity
- Hue – The shade
The brightness of natural light, with the reds spoken of earlier, can affect your wellbeing for the better. It can have a positive affect on your health and sleep quality.
Studies have shown that not getting enough sunlight in winter months can actually contribute to symptoms of depression and SAD or Seasonal Affect Disorder. To help improve the condition, a common treatment is exposure to light that’s a wide variety of colors. The goal of those artificial lights is to trick the mind into thinking it’s getting sunlight.
A few symptoms of SAD are:
- Low energy
- Sleep issues
- Problems concentrating
- Depression almost daily
The feel-good light: Serotonin and you
Natural light and mental health are also a positive combination because of the serotonin factor. More time in the sun naturally enhances the mind’s production of this particular hormone. This elevated level can benefit mood and help you focus. Three cheers for sunlight!
So, how exactly does this all happen? When bright light shines in the eyes, the photoreceptors there send messages to the brain. Specifically to the areas that regulate seratonin for the body. As seratonin regulates sleep and hunger levels, among other functions, getting enough of it is important.
With seratonin through natural light streaming into your home via windows, research shows that you’re more likely to feel happy, have more energy, and be alert, explains Shape.com. As for how long to expose yourself to sunlight, don’t overdo it please as I don’t want you getting a burn or skin diseases.
About 10-15 minutes of sun middle of day is enough to produce Vitamin D, explains Shape. Without getting enough seratonin though you might find yourself feeling asleep in daylight hours, awake at night, and hungry more than usual.
Final words on natural light and mental health
So now it’s clear that the sun exposure has lots of benefits when in small quantities. The relationships between Vitamin D, seratonin, and the human body are ones to understand to help you feel at your best.